Let me tell you the story about the egg in the square… It sounds like the start of a really nice story, but I am sorry to disappoint you. In the EU reality, the story about the egg in the square has nothing charming or funny in store for us.
The egg in the square, the egg in the cage, the space egg: all references to the new building for meetings of the European Council, officially named ‘Europa’. Used for the first time during the European Council Spring meeting in early March, a decade of works finally providing Heads of State and of Government with a ‘building of their own’; the building of the Member states. Beyond wondering how many functional square metres the building loses due to its shape, the result is a spacious, bright and colourful structure that seems to say ‘Europa is back’, ‘Power to the Member state to drive the future of the EU’.
The building couldn’t be more unlike the Borschette building in Rue Froissart, the venue for comitology committee/expert group meetings, referred to as ‘the bunker’. The ‘tristesse’ of this place, its unattractiveness and shady look make people believe it is either just an ugly building with little meaning or a dark venue for behind-closed-door meetings.
Yet, in this ‘bunker’ thousands of crucial decisions for EU citizens are taken. This is where Member states sit to discuss, provide their views and vote on drafts presented to them by the Commission that will impact your life as well as mine. This is the nerve centre of EU power, where the Commission, with Member state input, adopts ‘comitology’ measures. For some these are mere technical measures, but as recent history has shown, they are often highly politically sensitive decisions that impact society as a whole.
Rather than ask ‘what’s in a name’, ask: ‘what’s in a place?’ The ‘egg in the square’, this house of Member states, symbol of light and colour, might in appearance be the power centre, but in reality true EU power lies in the Borschette centre 500 metres down the road. Appearance and reality: be sure to know the difference.
by Vicky Marissen
Managing Director at PACT European Affairs